Oryza sativa, rice, is a genus of perennial grass in the Poaceae (grass family) that originated in India, Thailand, and southern China, was domesticated and diversified in ancient times, and is now cultivated in wet tropical, semi-tropical, and warm temperate areas around the world for the production of its cereal grain. Rice is one of the two most important cereal crops world for human consumption; the other is wheat, Triticum species. (Corn, Zea mays, is produced in larger amounts, but a sizable portion of it is used for livestock feed and making ethanol for biofuel). Rice is cultivated on an estimated 3% of the world’s agricultural land, and serves as a primary source of calories for over half the world’s population. Rice has also been important as a model system in plant biology, and is the first plant species for which the genome has been fully mapped.
The name “wild rice” may refer to any of the lesser- or non-cultivated species of Oryza, but is generally used to refer to North American species in the genus Zizania.
Oryza sativa is generally an annual grass, although some varieties are perennial. Plants typically grow in a tuft (clump) of upright culms (stems) up to 2 m or more tall, with long, flat leaf blades. The flowers grow on broad, open terminal panicles (branched clusters). The oblong spikelets, which each contain a single flower (that develops into a single kernel of grain), are sparse along the stem rather than forming dense clusters. The harvested kernel, known as a rice paddy, is enveloped in a hull or husk that is removed during milling.
Oryza sativa has hundreds of cultivars with different grain color, size, and shape, as well as environmental tolerances and seasonality—the types are generally categorized as valley rice, upland rice, spring rice, and summer rice. It is generally grown in fields that are flooded for part of the growing season—whether from irrigation (the majority of cultivation), rainfed or floodplain systems--which help reduces competition from other plants, among other benefits; some upland varieties can be grown without flooding, but they account for only 4% of rice cultivated worldwide.
Rice is thought to have been domesticated in India and brought to China by 3,000 B.C. It was cultivated in Babylon and the Middle East by 2,000 years ago, and spread to the Europe during medieval times.
The FAO estimates that the total commercial harvest of rice in 2010 was 672.0 million metric tons, harvested from 153.7 million hectares. China and India were the leading producers, followed by Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam; the U.S. is ranked 10th. Within the U.S., Arkansas accounts for the largest share of rice cultivation, followed by California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.
(Bailey et al. 1976, Ecocrop 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica 1993, FAOSTAT 2012, Flora of China 1994, Gillis 2005, Hedrick 1919, Science 2002, USDA 2012, van Wyk 2005, Wikipedia 2012.)
- Science. 2002. Various articles in special issue devoted to rice genome. Science 296(5565): 32–36 and etc. 5 April 2002. Accessed 13 July 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/data/rice/index.xhtml#articles.
- Bailey, L.H., E.Z. Bailey, and the L.H. Bailey Hortatorium. 1976. Hortus Third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. p. 802.
- Ecocrop. 2012. Oryza sativa. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ecocrop online database. Accessed 10 July 2012 from http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=1574.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. 1993. “Rice.” Encyclopedia Britannica Micropaedia vol. 10: 41. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 15th ed.
- FAOSTAT. 2012. Searchable online statistical database from Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations. Retrieved 10 July 2012 from http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.aspx?PageID=567#ancor.
- Flora of China. 2006. 37. ORYZA Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 333. 1753. Flora of China 22: 182–184. Accessed online: http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/PDF22/Oryza.pdf..
- Gillis, J. 2005. Rice Genome Fully Mapped. Washington Post 11 August 2005. Accessed online from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/10/AR2005081001054.html.
- Hedrick, U.P., ed. 1919. Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants. State of New York. Dept of Agriculture. 27th annual report, vol. 2, part II. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Co. p. 398–399.
- USDA. 2012. Rice Yearbook 2012. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economics Research Service. Accessed 10 July 2012 online from http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rice-yearbook-2012.aspx.
- Wikipedia. 2012. Staple food [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2012 Jun 28, 02:42 UTC [cited 2012 Jul 11]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Staple_food&oldid=499694840.
- van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. “Oryza sativa.” Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press. p. 270.
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